Published: 09:15, 06 April 2017
A battered and bruised grandmother fears the Kent and Canterbury Hospital is "being wound down by stealth" after experiencing first-hand its restricted services.
Wendy Cooper, 73, went to the K&C after suffering head injuries in a fall outside Morrisons in Herne Bay.
But she was only able to see a nurse and had to endure an hour-long journey in thick fog to have a scan at Margate’s QEQM Hospital.
She and her 75-year-old husband eventually arrived home to Oxenden Park Drive, Herne Bay, six hours after they left, with doctors in Margate deciding no scan was necessary.
"After a long wait when I got to the K&C, the nurse said there were no doctors," she said.
"We were being passed from pillar to post. People need to know the K&C can’t do scans for patients who come in with a head injury. By the time we arrived at the QEQM it was around 11pm."
Now Mrs Cooper has criticised impending changes which are likely to see more elderly patients – some without transport – forced to make the trip to Ashford or Margate.
Only last month the east Kent health trust revealed it would be scaling back emergency services at the K&C following a visit from Health Education England.
The watchdog ruled that the supervision of the hospital’s 71 junior doctors was “inadequate”, recommending 42 of them be transferred.
A controversial transformation plan could also see the K&C lose all its specialist services to Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital.
Mrs Cooper says it is particularly distressing to see as the hospital treated her when she had cancer 20 years ago and helped save the life of her husband Keith, who suffered a heart attack in 2015.
"The K&C is being wound down by stealth, which is a tragedy," she said. "Before people realise it there will hardly be any services left there.
"If people like me don’t make a fuss, who will? Imagine if it had been an older person on their own with no transport.
"We need a hospital in Canterbury for emergencies, not miles away in Margate or Ashford."
The trust’s chief nurse and director of quality, Sally Smith, says the hospital’s minor injuries unit is staffed by highly qualified emergency nurse practitioners.
"They sometimes refer head injuries, depending on the symptoms, to a doctor," she said.
"Sometimes the best treatment can only be established when a patient presents themselves.
"Doctors who specialise in head injuries are based at the William Harvey and QEQM hospitals, and have been since 2005.
"We have to treat head injuries with caution, and that is why it was decided that Mrs Cooper should be seen at the QEQM."